A New Leaf (1971)

G | 102 mins | Comedy | 10 March 1971

Director:

Elaine May

Writer:

Elaine May

Producer:

Joe Manduke

Cinematographer:

Gayne Rescher

Production Designer:

Warren Clymer

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

The working title of the film was The Green Heart , which was also the title of the Jack Ritchie short story on which it was based. Although a Jul 1969 DV item noted that Howard W. Koch was withdrawing as producer on A New Leaf in order to focus on another film in pre-production, and that production responsibilities for A New Leaf would be turned over to Stanley Jaffe, the picture's credits read "A Howard W. Koch-Hillard Elkins Production." The extent of Jaffe's contribution to the final film has not been determined. According to Filmfacts , A New Leaf lacked a music credit because the score, by Neal Hefti, was taken from a 1967 Paramount production, Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad (see below).
       As noted in contemporary sources, A New Leaf marked the first time a woman simultaneously performed the three functions of writing, directing and co-starring in a major feature film. Elaine May, who with future director Mike Nichols formed the popular 1960s comedy team of Nichols and May, had acted and written for films and television since the late 1960s, but had never directed. According to Filmfacts and the Time review, when May initially submitted a rough cut of the film that was nearly three hours in length, Paramount took the production from her to re-edit.
       In a suit filed against the studio, May stated that Paramount informed her that “the film released would be that as cut and edited by [Fredric] Fritz Steinkamp, a Hollywood ... More Less

The working title of the film was The Green Heart , which was also the title of the Jack Ritchie short story on which it was based. Although a Jul 1969 DV item noted that Howard W. Koch was withdrawing as producer on A New Leaf in order to focus on another film in pre-production, and that production responsibilities for A New Leaf would be turned over to Stanley Jaffe, the picture's credits read "A Howard W. Koch-Hillard Elkins Production." The extent of Jaffe's contribution to the final film has not been determined. According to Filmfacts , A New Leaf lacked a music credit because the score, by Neal Hefti, was taken from a 1967 Paramount production, Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad (see below).
       As noted in contemporary sources, A New Leaf marked the first time a woman simultaneously performed the three functions of writing, directing and co-starring in a major feature film. Elaine May, who with future director Mike Nichols formed the popular 1960s comedy team of Nichols and May, had acted and written for films and television since the late 1960s, but had never directed. According to Filmfacts and the Time review, when May initially submitted a rough cut of the film that was nearly three hours in length, Paramount took the production from her to re-edit.
       In a suit filed against the studio, May stated that Paramount informed her that “the film released would be that as cut and edited by [Fredric] Fritz Steinkamp, a Hollywood editor, and Robert Evans, a vice president of Paramount.” After seeing the studio cut, May accused Paramount of so distorting the film that she could make no claim to it, stating “I made a film about a man who commits two murders and gets away with it. In this new version the murders have been eliminated.” According to Filmfacts , in the original story, Walter Matthau’s character, “Henry Graham,” murdered the lawyer, “Andrew McPherson,” played by Jack Weston, as well as a blackmailer played by William Hickey, a role completely eliminated from the released film. Other eliminations from the film included a fantasy sequence in which May’s character “Henrietta” imagines herself a romantic seductress.
       In answering May's suit, Paramount stated that “Elaine May failed to perform her duties as a director in a timely, workmanlike and professional manner, resulting in substantially increased production costs.” The New York State Supreme Court found in favor of Paramount, and May vowed to appeal, either to prevent the release of the film or have her name removed from the credits, but an appeal was never filed.
       May went on to direct the critically and commercially successful The Heartbreak Kid , which was released by Twentieth Century-Fox in 1972, but again ran into difficulties with Paramount on Mikey and Nicky , a gangster drama she wrote and directed starring John Cassavetes and Peter Falk. Concluding that May’s version of Mikey and Nicky was not commercial, Paramount placed the production on hold for four years, finally releasing it in 1976. In 1978, May was nominated for an Academy Award for co-writing the script for Paramount’s Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty. In 1987 May wrote and directed the Columbia production Ishtar , starring Beatty and Dustin Hoffman. The studio was forced to threaten May with legal action after she spent several months editing it. Considered one of the great box-office flops of all time, the film, which was the last directed by May, went on to become a cult favorite. May continued to act, including a small role with Matthau in Paramount's Plaza Suite (see below), released shortly after A New Leaf in Jun 1971, and in Columbia’s California Suite (1978). A New Leaf was shot on location in New York and Maine. The film marked the last screen appearance of character actor Fred Stewart, who died in Dec 1970. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
24 Jul 1969.
---
Filmfacts
1971
pp. 41-44.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Apr 1968.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 1969.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Aug 1969
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Sep 1969
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Mar 1971
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
2 Apr 1971.
---
New York Times
12 May 1968.
---
New York Times
12 Mar 1971
p. 28.
New York Times
14 Mar 1971
p. 1.
New York Times
25 Apr 1971
p. 11.
Publisher's Weekly
22 Jul 1968.
---
Time
29 Mar 1971.
---
Variety
10 Mar 1971
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Howard W. Koch-Hillard Elkins Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Wrt for the screen by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
Rigging gaffer
Key grip
Grip
Stills
Spec still man
Best boy
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Des coord
Interiors des by
Master scenic artist
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Props
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Ward mistress
Furs des by Jacques Kaplan for
Swimwear by
Ladies gloves by
Men's clothes by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair styles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv/Unit prod mgr
Scr supv
Jewelry courtesy of
Handbags and luggage by
Art objects by
Art objects by
Art objects by
Art objects by
Primitive art from
Maine loc facilities thru the courtesy of
Loc mgr
Loc auditor
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Unit pub
Teamster
Teamster
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "The Green Heart" by Jack Ritchie in Alfred Hitchock's Mystery Magazine (March, 1963).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
10 March 1971
Production Date:
June--late September 1969 in New York
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corp., Aries Films, Inc.
Copyright Date:
31 December 1970
Copyright Number:
LP38928
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Movielab
Duration(in mins):
102
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After picking up his cherished but worn out Ferrari sports car from the mechanic shop, self-absorbed playboy Henry Graham spend the next several days avoiding his attorney, Beckett. Discovering that several of his checks to his private club have bounced, Henry suspects Beckett is trying to lure him to his office and reluctantly goes to see him. At the lawyer’s office, Henry learns that he has squandered his entire fortune and is dead broke. Shocked and traumatized, Henry spends the next several hours wandering through his favorite stores and clubs bidding them farewell. At his lavish apartment, Henry considers his priceless collection of first edition books and rare modern paintings, then asks his trusted manservant Harold what he would do if he learned Henry had no money. Harold admits he would give notice immediately. After experiencing horrifying visions of the common life, Henry confesses to Harold and sadly admits the only real talent he has is being rich. Harold suggests that Henry consider “taking the plunge” by finding a suitable, extremely wealthy woman to marry, then gives notice. Weighing this option against suicide, Henry agrees to try to find a wife and turns to his stingy Uncle Harry for help. Henry proposes that Harry lend him fifty thousand dollars, which he vows to repay in six weeks after getting his affairs in order and finding an affluent wife. Dismayed when Harry agrees with the single stipulation that should Henry fail to repay him in time, he will then owe him ten times the borrowed amount, Henry nevertheless agrees. Over the next five weeks, Henry avails himself of any ... +


After picking up his cherished but worn out Ferrari sports car from the mechanic shop, self-absorbed playboy Henry Graham spend the next several days avoiding his attorney, Beckett. Discovering that several of his checks to his private club have bounced, Henry suspects Beckett is trying to lure him to his office and reluctantly goes to see him. At the lawyer’s office, Henry learns that he has squandered his entire fortune and is dead broke. Shocked and traumatized, Henry spends the next several hours wandering through his favorite stores and clubs bidding them farewell. At his lavish apartment, Henry considers his priceless collection of first edition books and rare modern paintings, then asks his trusted manservant Harold what he would do if he learned Henry had no money. Harold admits he would give notice immediately. After experiencing horrifying visions of the common life, Henry confesses to Harold and sadly admits the only real talent he has is being rich. Harold suggests that Henry consider “taking the plunge” by finding a suitable, extremely wealthy woman to marry, then gives notice. Weighing this option against suicide, Henry agrees to try to find a wife and turns to his stingy Uncle Harry for help. Henry proposes that Harry lend him fifty thousand dollars, which he vows to repay in six weeks after getting his affairs in order and finding an affluent wife. Dismayed when Harry agrees with the single stipulation that should Henry fail to repay him in time, he will then owe him ten times the borrowed amount, Henry nevertheless agrees. Over the next five weeks, Henry avails himself of any and all wealthy female company, only to be consistently mortified by their demands on him. Despondent as the final week looms with no marriageable contender in sight, Henry is buoyed by steady encouragement from Harold, who has remained with Henry during his desperate quest. At a small society party, Henry learns from his friend Bo that one guest, the solitary, drab and clumsy woman there, is the exorbitantly wealthy heiress Henrietta Lowell, a botanist deeply involved in research and writing. Delighted, Henry introduces himself to the shy Henrietta, who drops her tea cup twice, infuriating the hostess. Henry escorts Henrietta from the party and offers to drive her home. When Henry’s Ferrari breaks down, the couple spends all night in the car waiting for a tow truck, and Henrietta admits her greatest wish is to discover a new species of fern never before classified. Henry asks the overwhelmed Henrietta on a date for that evening then hastens to his apartment to familiarize himself with botany. At dinner that evening, Henrietta is mesmerized by Henry’s knowledge and sophistication, but revolts him when she reveals she has always fancied Malaga Coolers made with Mogan David extra heavy Malaga wine. The next evening, despite Henrietta spilling Malaga wine on Henry’s llama rug, Henry proposes and the smitten Henrietta accepts. Later at home, Henry confides in Harold his feeling that Henrietta’s appalling taste makes her a menace to society who does not deserve to live, but forges ahead with immediate plans to wed. When Uncle Harry reads the wedding announcement in the next day’s paper, he contacts Beckett, who provides information about Henrietta’s attorney, Andrew McPherson. That afternoon when Henrietta stops at McPherson’s office, he begs her not to marry Henry, but she remains firm. Later, McPherson summons Henrietta and Henry to a meeting, where he reveals that Harry has provided him with a copy of Henry’s loan agreement, which proves he is a penniless gold digger. Henry admits to arranging the loan, but insists it was to clear his debts before committing suicide. He then explains that meeting Henrietta changed his mind. Despite McPherson’s pleas, Henrietta insists on making Henry a joint co-signer on all her bank accounts and demands that the loan to Harry be paid before the wedding the next day. After the wedding, on their island honeymoon, Henrietta investigates the native plant life while Henry studies various toxicology books with the intention of poisoning his new wife. Henrietta finds a fern she does not recognize and upon returning home, submits it to the university. At Henrietta’s enormous estate, Harold greets Henry with a warning that the servants, led by coy housekeeper Mrs. Traggert, are unmanageable. After Harold finds the household budgets books under Mrs. Traggert’s mattress, Henry goes over them carefully and discovers the staff has been heavily padding the accounts which are supervised by McPherson. With Henrietta’s consent, Henry fires the servants and terminates McPherson’s authority, assuming management of all Henrietta’s financial affairs. After Henry learns from the gardener that there are no chemicals on the grounds because Henrietta supports organic materials, he renews his attempt to obtain poisons. When Henrietta invites him to accompany her on her annual field trip to the Adirondack mountains, Henry imagines her falling victim to wild natives or unruly animals and readily agrees. While packing Henry’s revolver for the trip, Harold congratulates Henry on the success of his marriage, pointing out that he has displayed remarkable abilities in finance and management and that Henrietta trusts him completely. That afternoon Henrietta happily reveals the university has confirmed that her fern submission is a new species and that instead of following tradition and naming it after herself, she has named it “Alsophilia Grahami,” using her new husband’s name. When Henrietta presents Henry with a necklace containing a small piece of the newly named fern and thanks him for giving her confidence, he is uncomfortably touched. On the field trip, the mosquito-addled Henry takes no homicidal action against Henrietta, hoping some accident may occur. When their boat overturns in the river rapids, Henrietta clings to a log and tells the thrashing Henry she cannot swim. Assuring Henrietta he will save her, Henry reaches the shore, ecstatic that he can do away with his wife at last. Calling to Henrietta to let go of the log and let the current carry her to him, Henry turns away from the shore only to find himself surrounded by Alsophilia Grahami. Unexpectedly elated, Henry searches for his necklace and panics when he realizes that he has lost it in the river. Cursing as he realizes that despite all his plans, he has fallen in love with Henrietta, Henry rushes to the river’s edge to save her after which they walk back together as Henrietta happily plans their future. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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